Should Kids Be Social Media Influencers?

Should Kids Be Social Media Influencers?

Do you follow any social media influencers? If yes, why?

(Influencers are individuals, famous or not, with large followings. You can check out some of the most popular here.)

Would you want to be an influencer? Would you be willing to promote and market products on your social media feed if it meant earning lots of money?

In “Online and Making Thousands, at Age 4: Meet the Kidfluencers,” Sapna Maheshwari writes:

Samia was an influencer before she could talk.

Her parents, Adam and LaToya Ali, are influencers themselves and began chronicling Samia’s impending arrival on YouTube and Instagram in 2014, once Ms. Ali learned she was pregnant.

“Samia’s birth video is on YouTube, so she’s pretty much been born into social media,” Mr. Ali said.

Samia is now 4 and has 143,000 followers on Instagram and 203,000 subscribers on YouTube. Her feeds are mostly populated with posts of her posing and playing, but they also feature paid promotions for brands like Crayola and HomeStyle Harvest chicken nuggets.

There are instances when “Samia can’t verbatim get the message out,” Mr. Ali, who lives in the Atlanta area, said of the promotional posts. “Sometimes, their talking points are not kid talk, so LaToya would need to appear, or myself, to relay those because those are key deliverables that the brands want.”

Welcome to the world of kidfluencers. Brands have flocked to influencers — individuals, famous or not, with large followings on social media — for years, hoping their online popularity will prompt their fans to buy the products they vouch for. Then child influencers started appearing on their parents’ profiles, a surreal but seemingly harmless offshoot of this phenomenon.

Now, advertisers like Walmart, Staples and Mattel are bankrolling lucrative endorsements deals for toddlers and tweens with large followings and their own verified profiles on YouTube and Instagram. As a result, children too young to make their own accounts on the platforms are being turned into tastemakers.

The article describes how much money can be made as an influencer:

That can mean big money for the families of kidfluencers. Kyler Fisher, the father of 2-year-old identical twins who have more than two million followers on Instagram, said a sponsored post on the girls’ account could fetch between $10,000 and $20,000.

The twins, Taytum and Oakley, have promoted car seats and Carnival Cruise Lines on Instagram. They are also central to the success of their parents’ YouTube channel, Kyler & Mad, which has about three million subscribers. Promotions on the family YouTube channel can draw $25,000 to $50,000.

Fans are so interested in the family that their third child, due the first week of March, already has 112,000 Instagram followers.

“My kids complete the package, man,” Mr. Fisher said. “If we didn’t have the girls, I can’t imagine being as far as we are.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

— What is your reaction to the article? Should children be social media influencers? Why or why not? What age is or isn’t appropriate?

— Do you follow any influencers? If yes, do they promote products on their social media feeds?

— Would you want to be a paid influencer? Why or why not? Do you think your parents would let you?

— Should parents allow their children to be child influencers? Would you let a younger sibling or your own children be paid influencers?

— The article describes the problems in regulating the phenomenon of child influencers:

Children’s television, overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, has rules that separate ads from content and limit product placement and promotions by a program’s host or characters. The internet doesn’t.

YouTube has its own guidelines for children’s advertising, but they are often hard to police. For example, the YouTube Kids app, designed for children 12 and under, is not supposed to contain sponsored content, but The New York Times found several paid advertorial videos from influencers there for companies like Walmart, DreamWorks and Claire’s.

Should advertisers and brands be able to use young people as influencers on social media? Should companies like Instagram and YouTube revise their policies on advertising and children? Should there be more regulations for the internet and social media to protect children?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.